My first published novel, 'American Rust,' took three and a half years of full-time work to write. But I wrote two apprentice novels before that.
I didn't know much about Texas when I moved there for graduate school. In my first or second semester, I took a class in life and literature of the Southwest, and that's where I first heard about these events along the border in 1915-1918, what Anglos called the Bandit Wars.
I should say that generally I'm a pretty happy person, but as soon as I'm done with a project, I'm usually not happy at all. I feel a little empty and strange. I begin to think about how I can get better, stretch more artistically and intellectually. My biggest worry is getting complacent.
When I finish a book, I get extremely restless; I have to aggressively find ways to occupy myself; going off into the woods alone, doing things that are physically or mentally demanding to keep myself busy until the next big idea comes.
You have to believe in yourself and only trust your own vision and instincts. If I'd listened to what other people thought about my work in the first 10 years that I was a writer, I never would have made it to begin with.
At 16, I dropped out of school and spent five years working as a bicycle mechanic and volunteering in a Trauma Centre before ultimately deciding to go to university.
I couldn't understand what was important about school. Dropping out was the first adult decision I made. If I ever have kids, I would hate for them to drop out. But I wasn't a rebel. I never cared to be against school. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do.
I was a bit of a delinquent growing up, a very poor student - I nearly failed several grades before dropping out of high school and getting a G.E.D. But I still read a lot. Thrillers and war novels, mostly, along with the occasional literary novel from my parents' bookshelf.
We moved to Baltimore, Maryland, in 1979, when I was five. The funny thing is that, even though Baltimore had one of the top murder rates in the country in those days, I grew up hearing about how dangerous New York was.
When you start to look at Native American history, you realize that, very far from being a peaceful, morally superior people, Native Americans were not that different from Europeans.
If you've grown up with guns, the thought that someone might take them away makes your stomach churn. They make you feel safe. If you didn't grow up with guns, if you don't know how to use them, then the thought that someone else has them makes your stomach churn.
Each time a high-wage job is lost, a family is turned upside down. And that affects the communities where they live.
I like mechanical things; my first book was a mechanics guide - that was what my parents couldn't pry away from me; that was the blanket.
When novels deal in abstractions, they generally go off the rails.
Your mind burns a lot of calories. Writing can feel like a physical workout.
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